Your assignment is due next week. It’s totally okay to put it off for a while, right? Does this logic sound familiar?
Sometimes it is hard to start working on tasks, especially ones that we don’t like or don't think we are good at. Putting these kinds of tasks off for a while might make you feel better in the moment. However, it does not leave you much choice other than to cram all your work or studying in on the night before your deadline. This can be a very stressful way to approach your work, and it does not allow you to work to your full potential.
Changing a procrastination habit might be hard at the beginning – indeed, changing any habit and learning anything new can be challenging! – but taking this step will help you avoid unnecessary stress and get grades reflect your actual abilities.
To get started with tasks sooner rather than later, you can try to take it one step at a time. Breaking down huge tasks into smaller steps will make these tasks more approachable and allow you to do a little bit of the work every day, without getting overwhelmed. For instance, rather than trying to do all of your dense readings in one sitting, you can focus on reading (and understanding!) one chapter, section, or page at a time. Reading a few pages each day will help you achieve your overall goal and will likely increase your understanding of the material.
You can increase your motivation by hiding treats at the end of each chapter or rewarding yourself with something you enjoy after you achieve each step of your goal.
As you know yourself the best you can also trick yourself the best! Think about what stops you from studying and try to avoid those things. For example, if you get distracted at home, you can study at the library. When you find yourself on social media rather than studying you can put your phone in another room, close all webpages that are not study-related, or try using a web-blocker. Don’t forget that you are not alone in your efforts to overcome procrastination. If you have any questions or concerns you can always ask classmates, TAs, professors, or the SLC for help.
Time for action! Write down one small thing that you can do today to come a little bit closer to achieving your goals. Maybe it will involve taking the first step on a task that you have been putting off until now...
By Alexandra Patzak, SLC Graduate Learning Facilitator & PhD Candidate in Educational Psychology